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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Urban Legends of the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code

The other day, our law partner, Peter Keenan, who prosecutes ordinances for Independence and Brandon Townships, was discussing Michigan's Motor Vehicle Code with the judges of the 52/2nd District Court here in Clarkston.  A question came-up among the judges that they wanted ordinance-prosecutor Keenan to answer: is it illegal to drive barefoot?

This led Mr. Keenan to unearth the following "urban legends" of our Motor Vehicle Code:
  • Barefoot Driving.  There is nothing in Michigan's driving laws that prohibits driving without footwear.  In fact, a good argument could be made that a driver has even better control of the vehicle while driving barefoot.  I know that, from time-to-time, I have the occasion to drive barefoot.  It does feel like I have better control in moving between the brake and the gas pedal.  
  • Riding in a Trailer.  Again, nothing in the Motor Vehicle Code proscribes someone from riding in a trailer being towed by a vehicle, regardless of the type of hitch.  Nor is two-way communication required between driver and rider, which is also part of this urban legend.  One issue that could arise, however, is if a child is in the trailer, a child seat would be required.
  • Driving with Headphones.  The Motor Vehicle Code does not specifically prohibit the use of headphones or earbuds; even Dr. Dre's "Beats".  However, to the extent that it interferes with the driver's ability to process available auditory clues of certain situations, it could lead to a citation for careless, or even reckless driving, depending on the circumstances.
  • "Suicide Knobs".  You know, those goofy attachments to your steering wheel, that supposedly help individuals with certain handicaps steer the vehicle.  When used at high speeds, these devices promote "drifting".  Nevertheless, they are not illegal.  In some instances, however, if the vehicle is used in construction or for hauling material, it may be an OSHA violation.
So some of the things that many folks believe are prohibited by law are, in fact, not covered by the specific provisions of the Motor Vehicle Code.  It bears keeping in mind, however, that in the case of a collision, the police investigators will always assess the circumstances [i.e. barefoot, earbuds, trailer] to make a base-line determination about whether the driver was in sufficient control of the vehicle.  

If not, then the driver can expect a ticket for careless driving, reckless driving, or other applicable code infractions.  So be sure to drive carefully out there...


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